How to help learners become more attentive

For students to excel in their studies, it’s important that they pay attention to what their teachers are saying to them. Experts say listening skills are critical in every learner’s journey; the reason teachers must do all it takes to groom this skill.
Students in a class session. Teachers should engage learners to make lessons enjoyable. / Lydia Atieno.
Students in a class session. Teachers should engage learners to make lessons enjoyable. / Lydia Atieno.

For students to excel in their studies, it’s important that they pay attention to what their teachers are saying to them. Experts say listening skills are critical in every learner’s journey; the reason teachers must do all it takes to groom this skill.

Ezekiel Bizimana, a teacher at GS Gahini in Eastern Province, says there are some barriers that prevent students from being good listeners. So as teachers, this is where allowing all of the students to participate in class activities becomes vital.

He says a teacher can easily identify a learner who has poor listening skills. This can help them find out if there are any barriers that hinder them from being attentive or it’s just that they are bored of what is being taught.

Teachers, he says, should be in a position to make sure learners have understood and can be able to relate to whatever has been taught in the same way.

Ways of making learners participate in class

Venuste Munyeshyaka, a mathematics teacher at Mubano School in Kicukiro District, says for students who have poor listening habits, a teacher telling them to pay attention is not the solution. He says such teachers should find interesting ways of winning their attention.

“As a teacher, finding out if your teaching habits are boring or monotonous is important before pointing a finger to an inattentive student. Adopting interesting options of making your class happy and willing to participate can work better,” he says.

Munyeshyaka notes that connecting what is being taught to real life is yet another way to make the class more involved. “This approach makes the learning experience fun and meaningful as well as it allows all the students to be engaged in whatever they are being taught,” he says.

He further points out that this can be achieved by developing different strategies depending on the level of the student. The strategy should inspire and motivate students to learn and work hard in life. “This is because when they are not interested and don’t see the point of learning that particular lesson, they will not pay attention to what they are being taught,” he says.

On the other hand, Luclay Burora, a teacher at SOS Technical Secondary School in Kinyinya, says during a lesson, a teacher should try to split the students into small groups. He adds that this will help the whole class participate and contribute to class discussions, which is another way of making them improve their listening skills.

“It’s hard to keep students focused especially in a scenario where only the teacher talks. To them this becomes monotonous and can drive away their attention easily. They need to hear from other students and also be able to make contributions as they discuss with their fellow students,” he says.

Burora says other than promoting good listening skills, group discussions also help learners develop speaking skills as some of them are more comfortable talking to their fellow students than teachers.

Through discussions, he notes that as a teacher, it’s easier to find out if the students have understood what they have to be taught from how they are participating in the group work.

Things that make students inattentive

Most of the time, students who lose interest in listening to their teachers are those who are not motivated to do so.

For instance, Bizimana notes that teachers who are fond of spending their entire lesson teaching only content from the book, but not relating it to real life or asking questions, end up ‘talking to themselves’ as students always get bored with such lessons.

“At the beginning and in the middle of the lesson, asking questions makes students pay attention. This is even better if questions are related to challenges facing the learners and how they think they can be helped,” he says.

Bizimana adds that in a class where there are gifted or quick learners; teachers should find extra activities to give them so that they don’t get bored.

“Because such students tend to always be ahead of others, it can get them bored, especially when they are done with their assignments,” he says.

For such cases, Bizimana says a teacher can as well give such students a chance to lead the class in that particular topic. However, the teacher should stay close to make sure the student has understood what they are discussing with their fellow students.

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